Call For Papers: Conference Collecting Geographies – Global Programming and Museums of Modern Art

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
11 Jul 2013 - 06 Sep 2013

Against the backdrop of globalization today, museums for modern and contemporary art in the West are inclined to pay serious attention to the acquisition and presentation of art from all over the world, beyond the still prevalent dominance of European and North American art. Given, on the one hand, the extreme concentration of internationally operating art institutions in Western Europe and the United States, and the often radically different self-understanding of non-Western art institutions on the other, the institutional claims to the global need to be reviewed, contextualized and contested.

A critical reassessment of the history of Western art museums provides an entrance into this discussion. Often the current all-encompassing scope in exhibition and acquisition practices, contrasts with conventional approaches which are assumed to be limited to a modernist focus on Western art and exhibition models. However, when taking a closer look to the institutional histories of such museums it often appears that they are more diverse and can offer interesting correspondences with today’s curatorial practices and broadening international scope.

The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, which recently (re-)opened its renovated and extended premises on Amsterdam’s Museum Square, serves as a good example. Although it is now mainly known for fostering modernist and (neo-)avant garde art practices especially from Europe and, since the mid-60s, the United States, it boasted a bewildering variety of itineraries in its exhibition program throughout its past. But this history has been neglected or perhaps even ‘purified’ through a modernist lense. The Folkwang Museum in Essen is another example, which houses a large collection of historical non-Western art objects that have mostly been neglected as a starting point for its exhibition programs over the last decades.

The conference Collecting Geographies – Global Programming and Museums of Modern Art reflects on the value of these histories of ‘art from elsewhere’, as key-note speaker Okwui Enwezor calls it. The conference also takes a closer look at the new inquiries into the relation between art institutions, globalization and postcolonial discourse – think of the various new exhibitition projects and acquisition policies of for example the Centre Pompidou, Tate Modern, Moderna Museet and the Stedelijk Museum. Moreover, there will be room for a critical investigation of the deployed terminology and theoretical discourse.


Conference dates: 12–14 March 2014

Deadline for papers: 06 September 2013


Key-note speakers / panel participants (TBC):
James Clifford (confirmed), Annie Coombes (invited), Pamela Lee (invited), TJ Demos (invited), Kader Attia (confirmed), Wendelien van Oldenborgh (invited), Sarat Maharaj (invited), the directors of the collaborating museums.



– Exhibition and collection histories of modern and contemporary art museums, with special interest in ethnographic moments, primitivism and purification tendencies, and their reassessment in the context of today and tomorrow.

– The division of modern art and ethnography, as well as the division of modern and contemporary art museum and the ethnographic museum, and the possible or impossible reconciliation of the two.

– Curatorial methods, attituted and exhibition practices which can reconcile versatile or even oppositional practices, traditions and histories, both in and beyond the predominating model of the white cube.

– Museum strategies that focus on local affinities within a larger (art-historical/global) framework

– Theoretical reflections on postcolonial theory, globalisation and the modern and contemporart art world.



The call for papers is open to both institutional and independent researchers. It is also possible to submit proposals for sessions (max. amount of speakers per session: 5)

Abstracts of 300 words (plus short resume of 150 words) should be emailed to before September 6 2013.

A committee compiled from the organizing institutions will assess the abstracts in September and determine the final selection. Selected papers will be delivered at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, during a three-day conference to be held from 12 to 14 March 2014. A detailed program will be announced in December 2013, along with information and suggestions about travel and accommodation. The conference fee covers entrance to the museum, lunches and drinks organized within the framework of the conference.

The organizers will endeavor to make available a number of grants for non-institutional applicants, especially those travelling from outside Europe. Please contact the organizers for more information.



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